The government and the Delhi police have squarely put the blame for the Uber rape case on the ridersharing company, while papering over the deficiencies in the system. In truth, the police’s procedures for conducting background checks on taxi drivers are as inefficient as Uber’s.

As investigations into the case widened, doubt was thrown on the character certificate seemingly issued by the police to the 32-year-old rape accused, Shiv Kumar Yadav. The police claimed the document was forged. But its format shed light on the loopholes in the system. It turns out that such character certificates are given for the jurisdiction of only one police station area.

The process works this way: A commercial cab driver is required to procure a police verification certificate and then display it in his cab, visible for all riders to see. This certificate is issued by the regional district police centres. In Yadav’s case, it was given out by the South East District Office of the Delhi Police.

Once a driver applies for the document, the district police station checks with the local police station near the driver’s home whether he has a criminal record. If one isn't found, a character certificate is issued under the authorisation of the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police. In all this, no attempt is made to check with any other police station or look into any criminal database.

Looking elsewhere

This is what allowed Yadav’s past criminal record to be overlooked when he applied for a character certificate from the police.

A criminal case was registered against Yadav for a rape at the Mehrauli Police station in 2011 (for which he spent seven months in jail until he was acquitted). But since the police searched for his criminal records only at the local police station in Ambedkar Nagar in south Delhi, he got a certificate easily.

For the last three years, Yadav had been driving cabs in Delhi with that character certificate. For the last three months, he was working with Uber.

Additional checks

Policemen concede their system has huge holes. “This verification process is completely pointless,” a senior Delhi Police officer told “Most drivers are tenants. If a driver has a prior record at the local police station in his area, he can simply relocate and get a clean character certificate.” The officer admitted that checks should also be made in the driver’s hometown and using the criminal database.

There are currently 43,841 cabs of different kinds in Delhi, each of whose driver has been issued a character certificate. How many of those have slipped through the gaps in the system is anyone’s guess.